Norway statistics bureau head leaves post over conflict

The director of Statistics Norway (Statistisk sentralbyrå, SSB) Christine Meyer has left her post after a weeks-long conflict with the Ministry of Finance.

Norway statistics bureau head leaves post over conflict
Christine Meyer. Photo: Cornelius Poppe / NTB scanpix

A series of meetings between Meyer and Finance Minister Siv Jensen culminated in the former leaving her post on Sunday, reports NRK.

The background to the conflict is ostensibly a disagreement over a restructuring of the statistics bureau implemented by Meyer.

The two clashed over a reduction in SSB’s research department and researchers being moved to the statistics section of the organisation against their will.

Meyer, a former regional councillor with the Conservative (Høyre) party, has been accused of trying to ‘gag’ immigration statistics through the reorganisation, but denied earlier this month that political guidelines were influencing research.

The outgoing SSB director stated pro-immigration views prior to taking the leadership role with the politically neutral SSB, writes VG.

On Friday, Jensen told NRK that Meyer no longer had her support.

“The planned changes to the research department have given rise to concerns as to whether SSB can sufficiently deliver good economic models and analyses to the ministries, parliament, business interests, media and general public,” Jensen said.

On Sunday, the statistics bureau director agreed a severance package worth 1.4 million kroner (147,000 euros), NRK reported.

“There are three elements I was concerned with reaching through [this] agreement. The most important was to quickly reach agreement with the Ministry of Finance, in order to bring calm to SSB. Secondly, I demanded to that no clause be included preventing me from speaking freely after reaching agreement, Meyer said via a press statement.

“The third element that was important for me was that the agreement did not give the impression that the Ministry of Finance had grounds to terminate my employment,” she continued.

Erling Holmøy, a high-profile SSB researcher into the costs of immigration, was one of the employees at the bureau who were give a new remit.

Meyer told VG on Sunday that she had received an unofficial call from the ministry prior to her SSB departure, informing her that the situation relating to her under-pressure position would “go fine” if she gave Holmøy back his research job.

This would have constituted “special treatment” given the large number of employees who were relocated, she said.

Opposition politicians called on Monday for Jensen to explain why Meyer eventually agreed to leave her post.

“We will ask questions in parliament to get clarification on why Meyer had to go,” Labour party deputy leader Trond Giske told NRK

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